–Just about anyone under the age of 60 who has lived in this permissive society during the past 40 years, has done something that might be unfit for a Hallmark Greeting Card. In fact, I have profound qualms about any would-be politician who hasn’t allowed him- or herself a moment of untrammeled human or chemical exploration. I fear that the media have driven an awful lot of interesting people away from public service for reasons that would have seemed extreme to the second generation of New England Puritans.
–These sort of crapulous stories are next-door neighbors to the sleazy negative advertising that, well, John McCain has been accosting us with. They feed the notion that politicians are just a bunch of soulless, egomaniacal dolts without a high-minded–whoa, almost said bone in their bodies–pick your allusion. One of the worst results of the past 30 years of the Reagan pendulum swing is that the politicians-as-perverts meme fits quite neatly into the government-as-problem-not-solution meme. Given the problems we’re facing now, this is not where we want our national discourse to be.
I will say that the fact of McCain’s adulteries and Obama’s admissions of drug use in his past indicate that one of the media’s ever-changing rules on what counts as a “legal” opportunity to engage in gossip seems to be “Safely in the past is off-limits.” I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that, and think the better rule would be, “Hoist them by their own petards” rule, which is to say that anyone who uses their position of power to oppress other people for their sexual orientation or behavior should consider his or her own sex life public property. People who don’t do this—even if they pander on “family values” in their rhetoric, for the whiny wingnuts looking for a technicality to dwell on this Edwards thing—have earned the right to keep their private life private. Like Klein says, if that doesn’t happen, we’re going to whittle down the eligible political pool to pretty much no one worth voting for. I suppose that suits the angry virgin College Republican crowd fine, but really, do the rest of us really want the semi-volunteer teenage virgin parade and K-Lo to be our only options? I didn’t think so.
The fatal flaw in this neat little idea is the War On Drugs, which pretty much all politicians automatically support, much to my chagrin. The level of hypocrisy involved in the War On Drugs is mind-boggling. It’s not just the politicians who did drugs and tolerate or even eagerly promote jail time for those less fortunate than them—people who get caught and don’t have the money and connections to turn that into a stint in rehab or no punishment at all. It’s also the sort of ur-hypocrisy. Pretty much everyone drinks alcohol and coffee, though smoking cigarettes is borderline socially acceptable these days. (I actually think that Obama’s smoking probably is more of an image concern than his admitted drug experimentation in his youth.) It’s completely unconscionable for people to even be in the same room as alcohol and yet support putting those who indulge in the far safer drug marijuana in jail.
It makes sense that we get the hypocrisy angle on sex—attitudes on sexuality have been liberalizing for decades, and people generally recognize government oppression of people’s sexuality for what it is, and expect the moral scolds to live by their own standards. Drugs are different, of course, in the sense that they’re dangerous and seem sort of extra-natural compared to sex, which asserts itself on your body not the other way around. But still, Klein linked them and I agree. So what is it going to take to move hypocrisy on drug use from standard issue behavior to scandal-worthy?